Top tips for graduate recruitment on a budget

I'm always on the lookout for new talent and this can come in a number of different forms - experienced industry professionals, those looking for a career change (bringing with them a wealth of experience from other industries) and more recently I've started to recruit college graduates.


I've found that graduates are not only a great way to fill entry-level roles in my business but also bring a fresh perspective, enthusiasm and are determined to work hard and progress their careers.

I've also found that you don't need an HR department or a large budget to get the best graduates to work for you. There are actually an increasing number of college grads who are looking to work for start-ups and smaller businesses just like mine.

Here are my top tips on graduate recruitment with a very small budget.

#1 Get noticed

First of all, no one's going to work for you if they don't have a clue who you are or what your business does. Promoting your business to new recruits is just as important as it is to promote your company to new customers.

If your company doesn't have a social media presence this should be your #1 priority - 71% of millennials check social media sites at least once a day1and almost 2/3rds of US professionals use social networks to discover new job opportunities2 - so if you're not on there, you're not getting found.

Social sites like LinkedIn and Facebook are ideal for setting up company profiles, but they need to be engaging. Think of your online profile like a shop window - use it as a way to showcase your business, what you have to offer and what you want to be known for. Here are some examples of great LinkedIn company profiles you can learn from. I also found this post really helpful when setting up my company Facebook page.

Websites such as LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Simply Hired also offer the opportunity to post jobs online at a fraction of the cost of using a typical recruitment company. You can make your money go even further when posting jobs online by focusing on certain demographics and locations to promote to - which I've found gives me the best shot at attracting graduates in my local area.

Another great way to get noticed is to attend local college career fairs. They may take a bit of time out of your day (and come at a small cost depending on which campus you go to) but it's a fantastic way to access hundreds of potential candidates all under the same roof and promote your business

#2 Get them interested

Getting candidates to notice you is one thing, but once they have how do you get them interested in working for you? I've found that the key to this is actually pretty simple: Engage them.

The US employment market is very different than it's been in the past. Many companies are competing for young, high-potential talent - giving candidates more choice when it comes to job selection. As a result, grads are now looking to hear about what your company has to offerthem. I've found that this is where small businesses can really stand out over larger businesses.

At my business I promote the fact that:

  • there's room to grow their career as the business grows
  • we offer greater flexibility when it comes to working hours and locations (a number of my staff work remotely)
  • working for a small team gives them the ability to work across a number of areas and develop skills they may not be able to if they worked for a larger employer.

Engaging communication is also vital. Millennials in the college market are looking for personalized and instant communication. The quicker you can reach out to them after they apply for a job online, email you or meet you at a career fair the better. I've had little success with typical "mass" email templates. In fact, I've discovered that I'm much more likely to interest a graduate if:

  • they can tell I'm sending a message only to them, and
  • I've taken the time to look at their LinkedIn profile or resume

Believe it or not, I've also had a lot of luck texting recent graduates to schedule phone calls or interviews, rather than emailing them.

Offering training programs with a structured framework can also be a huge plus for grads and gives them lots of support, especially as many will have come straight from a classroom learning environment.

And lastly, if you can't offer them a salary to compete with some of the larger players in the job market, focus on benefits. The good news is that 60% of millennials say that company benefits are an important factor in choosing a job3 - which can be a great way to boost your job offering (at little or no cost to you).

#3 Get the timing right

College hiring in the US has two peak seasons centered on the beginning of each college semester:

  1. Fall (September-October), and
  2. Spring (January-February)

This is when recruitment activity is at its highest.

However, if you want to make the greatest impact, don't leave it until then to start looking for new grads. Typically, students are looking to secure employment about 4 - 5 months before starting, so make sure they can find your business when researching and applying for jobs. You may also find that by getting in there early you will increase the chances of securing talented candidates, before other companies have even started their search.

Good luck with the search. Do you have any other top tips for graduate recruitment that have worked for you that I haven't mentioned? Feel free to share in the comments below.


1 Ipsos, "Millennial Social Influence Study". 2014

2 LinkedIn, "2015 Talent Trends". 2015

3 Hanover Research & The NSHSS, "The Emerging Workforce: Generational Trends". 2016